Every city and town in the U.S. can spend the federal pandemic recovery money it’s getting from the American Rescue plan however it wishes. Vermont’s second-largest city wishes to back new housing with some of its share.

South Burlington wants to spend $1 million of its ARPA funding on housing support. The city’s Affordable Housing Committee and Housing Trust Fund Committee have been working on criteria that developers applying for some of that funding would have to meet. On Wednesday night, both groups sent recommended criteria to the City Council.

“It’s a short timeline,” Affordable Housing Committee chair Chris Trombly said. “The money has to be committed by 2024 and spent by 2026, so the sooner we can kinda get that out the door — there are advantages to that.”

Planning Commission clerk Monica Ostby said that real estate developers already have many constraints to contend with on new developments. She believed it would be too onerous to require them to include certain percentages of studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units in their ARPA-supported projects.

“It’s not so much putting a number to any of them; it’s simply requiring that there be the mix,” Ostby said. “You might be reaching the goal you’re looking for anyway, and then you don’t have the tight constraints.”

They voted unanimously that they shouldn’t require certain percentages of the housing units supported by this money to be certain sizes. One Housing Trust Fund Committee member added that this is an unusual position for her to take.

“I’m actually in this case doing something that I don’t normally do, which is — I’m saying, leave it up to the developers to what they think they can rent out,” Ariel Jensen-Vargas said.

The two groups recommended the City Council do just that. They also voted for it to tell those same developers that the closer the ARPA-supported projects come to net zero energy, the better.

“We’re adding language about outreach to new American and BIPOC (communities) in the application process, so we can understand that when we’re considering the applications,” Trombly said.

The city council will take up the ARPA housing money guidelines on Monday, May 2. It’s unclear if the city will store the money in its housing trust fund; that issue will also likely come up that night.